A Nut-Free Christmas Meringue

With Christmas approaching, our days are filling up with parties, gift buying, and baking.
If you’re like me and not a seasoned baker, the very thought of baking causes anxiety. Also, I never follow recipes to a T, because I’m a rebel…?… And as we know, recipes are kind of an exact science.
But this recipe is honestly really easy. I only had to make the toffee twice (I may have burned the first batch?) IMG_7438.JPG
If it starts to smoke, you’ve gone too far. :)
The recipe says to continually stir toffee for 5-7 minutes- DON’T. Unless you want a smoky kitchen, too.
Honestly, just continually stir the toffee until it turns a light-medium brown.

I chose this recipe because a cousin of mine has a severe nut allergy. Unfortunately I forgot to ensure my chocolate chips were nut-free. PSA: Kirkland brand chocolate chips may have traces of tree nuts and other nutty things in it. Sorry cousin. ūüėĀ

If you have a stand mixer the whipping of the meringue will be a breeze.

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I let my toffee cool on a lined baking tray on my porch where it’s freezing so it was nice and firm and ready to be hacked and folded into the meringue

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At this point you’ll want to eat it because it smells like SKOR bars. If you don’t know what a SKOR bar is, I truly feel for you. Think crunchy salty toffee surrounded in a thin layer of chocolate.

So what you’ll want to do is put those puppies in the preheated oven, which you’ll then immediately shut off. Keep the oven closed all night.

Why? Because you’ll wake up to this:

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OH YEAHHHHHHHHH!

And look at the inside:

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Breakfast of champions, no? Which means I’ll have to make more. But ensure the chips are indeed 100% nut-free next time :)

Ingredients

2 large egg whites
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toffee bits (recipe below)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Toffee Bits
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350¬į Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add about half of the sugar, gently sprinkling it over the whipping egg whites. Add the vanilla extract, then continue gradually adding the remaining sugar, until the meringue is very shiny and stiff. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and toffee bits.
Spoon one tablespoon of meringue onto the lined baking sheets, then repeat with the rest of the meringue, leaving 1-inch of space between cookies. Place the baking sheets in the preheated oven and then turn the oven off. Leave the cookies in the oven overnight (or for a minimum of 6 hours), undisturbed (DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!). Gently remove the cookies from the baking sheets and store in an airtight container.

Toffee Bits
Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat and set aside.
Combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly with a clean, dry, wooden spoon until the butter is melted. Continue cooking and stirring for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the candy is the color unblanched almonds. Immediately pour the candy, without scraping the saucepan, onto the lined baking mat. Cool completely.
Break the cooled toffee into pieces: Break the toffee into large pieces and place them in a sturdy plastic bag. Using a rolling pin/meat tenderizer/other heavy object, pound the toffee until broken into small pieces. Store the pieces in an airtight container until ready to use.

Enjoy!

A Gatsby Inspired Christmas

If you know me, you know I’m
OBSESSED with HomeSense (also known as Home Goods in ‘Merica).
Today, I stepped into the store and felt my chest rise in emotion; the grandeur of its Christmas decor displays hit me like a brick.

My palms started sweating and my eyes didn’t even know which way to look. It was UN.BE.LIEVABLE.

The first emotion was: oh my god I must have allll the Christmas things.

The second emotion was: hoard it. Hoard it all.

The third emotion was: I hope no one grabs anything I would kill for because I might, in fact, cry.

The fourth emotion erased that all, however, when I realized I was so overwhelmed by the decor options, I couldn’t decide.

I literally paced up and down the same aisles at least 20 times (not exaggerating). Every now and then I’d wander off to the food section just to let the store employees know I wasn’t losing my mind. (But I was).

Oooh! Bonus of landing in said food section was bumping into Chef Randy of CityLine and the co-owner of 3 popular restaurants in Barrie.

But I had to focus on the decor. There was so much to choose from. Did you want Country Vintage? Eclectic? Tartan Dreams? Rose gold and Amber? Or Vintage Vintage? What about modern vintage? I was debating the gold reindeer head enveloped in a wreath (?) but in the end I slapped myself in the face.

I settled on doing a romantic, vintage, Gatsby inspired theme. Think glass, silver, soft pastels and glowing yellows.

My first picks were two amazing houses made OF CARDBOARD. So props to me there because, hello, cardboard means cheapo prices.

This was especially important since husband said his favourite theme would be: The Whatever We Have in the Boxes in the Basement Theme.

Ahem.

I decided I didn’t like that theme.

Here is what I purchased today, and they’re for the kids’ rooms specifically. I didn’t really purchase much more than that. I contained myself and said I could build accordingly and, who am I kidding, more decor will still arrive in the weeks ahead.

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Aren’t these houses the cutest? They remind me of vintage decorations my grandmother had when I was a child. The trees in particular.

The kids will love that they light up with LED lights and I’ll appreciate the subtle Christmas insertion into their bedrooms.

What do you think of the houses? Yay or nay? And what will your decor theme be this year?

Monochromatic Boys Room

A while back we showed some pictures of our son’s bedroom makeover on our Facebook page, but if you missed them, here is a quick photo collage:

sam room before

As you can see, the plaster walls were covered in a lovely pink and blue 80’s wallpaper, flanked by a lovely Canadiana hockey border above. I’d just like to take a minute, pause, reflect…and wonder who thought that this combo made a winning team. Huh. Stumped, actually…. But we removed the wallpaper and filled the holes, and began the process of painting the walls.

We chose Behr Ultra Pure White as the basis for the walls and used the same shade but in a gloss for the trim. We ended up using Behr Marquee paint in Black on the lower portion of the walls for a modern look, but not too modern; we wanted to balance out the room and make sure it was one our son could grow into. So no baby blues, no cutesy decor – just simple opposites to create a space he REALLY loves.

reno room

Ok, so now for the close-ups :)

Here is his bunk bed- its actually an older version of a nasty blue IKEA bunk-bed that we spray-painted years ago. The paint is starting to wear on the steps going up to the bed, but it looks really awesome and well-loved. Underneath the bed is his “Bat Cave”, an area where he chills with friends, reads book or plays with his sister. (The striped blanket, puppy, bedsheets, rug and pillows are¬†from IKEA, the Star Wars chair is from Pottery Barn, the BatMan Cape is from ToysRUs).

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A close-up of the BatCave:

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The hanging pendant light is from Solutions. The kids love it and so do we – it runs on a battery and is turned on and off by simply tugging on the light itself (which always stays cool!) This light would also be a great option for those who have dark closet spaces. So of course I had to share that tip!

His dresser, night-light and alphabet poster are from IKEA and they fit perfectly into the space. I love seeing the black paint pop up from behind – to quote Cher from “Clueless” – they just “mesh”.

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I love this little toy storage space in his room. When you walk in, its hidden from the bed, reducing that cluttered look. And speaking of clutter, you won’t find any here, because all of his favourite toys are tossed into these awesome black bins (super soft and durable by the way). Guess what? It is also from IKEA. I should probably invest in their stock…

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The cutest star lights (from an IKEA Christmas event YEARS ago) drape over his window and he uses that primarily as his night light. It is on day and night (thanks, LED!) and gives his room a whimsical feel. He made his own dreamcatcher this summer. Be gone evil nightmares!!! The Eames Eiffel chair adds a modern touch to his room and his stuffed toys don’t seem to mind it one bit.

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Of course, this makeover would not be complete without this light. The bedrooms in this house didn’t have lights in them. We had an electrician come in and drill holes into the ceilings so we could hook up lights in the kids’ rooms. Our electrician, bless him, vowed to never work in a century home again. The lathe and plaster ceilings were a pain to work with, but the end result is amazing and a necessity for the kids. This light is from IKEA. Doesn’t it scream Death Star to you?!

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So there you have it – the room makeover! I’ll end this blog post by showing this picture of his closet. I found the sweetest hand-crafted wooden sign in a local town earlier this year and it helps to complete the look.

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I am particularly fond of what it says:

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And that’s a wrap! Hope you enjoy the makeover as much as we do.¬†It’s amazing what some IKEA and paint can do :)

L

Fall in Love With Fall

If you’re a Canadian like me, you’re probably lamenting the end of what was a pathetic summer. Sorry Mother Nature, but that was a huge tease, especially following the horrific winter of last year. Not to say we weren’t grateful for the sporadic hot days here and there, but let’s face it – you sucked! And now fall is upon us and I have to say… I dig it. It’s like Mother Nature heard my cries and said: oh sweet child, I shall grant you your one wish, but alas, it shall last but a week.

So I knew I had to get the decor done before the Winter of 2014 would hit, which will be most likely the second week of October, AMIRIGHT?!?!

I heard about this amazing greenhouse in our city. So I decided to check it out. Bradford Greenhouse. OH MY GOD. If you love decor, if you love plants, if you love to purchase clothes, flowers, signs, accessories, smelly pretty things, things that are expensive, furniture and everything else in between – this is where you need to be. Also, you will be poor when you leave. I mean, the credit bureau will start knocking.

Also? This place is about 85,000 sq ft, so my advice would be to pack a sleeping bag, a thermos, snacks, wipes, a fold-up chair and a magazine, because there is no way you can get out of this store within 30 minutes. It’s THAT massive. And beautiful. But I digress.

Ever thankful to have the porch of our dreams, that more or less equates to the fact that¬†it begs to be decorated. I am not too keen on Halloween, so I don’t decorate according to that “holiday” (I am sorry – do you get that day off? No, me neither), I decorate according to the season. And despite my every ache to decorate this farmhouse with a more modern flair, I decided to respect the age of the home and its design and decorate according to that.

I stocked up on the following: white mums, burlap/jute, flower bushels, hay, corn stalks, twine, jute ribbon, polka dot ribbon, a nest, a bird, oasis foam, a metal flower container, fake leaves, fake berries, two dried lavender bouquets (for the bathroom), fake flowers, pumpkins, wheat wreaths and wreath hangers. I am telling you, the staff at the greenhouse fell in love with me. And my MasterCard. I kind of died a little on the inside…?…. but I felt better when they said MAYBE they would put my name on a plaque in the store to commemorate my first and most amazing purchase.

And here is what I did with all of those purchases:

Fall Porch

 

This shot above is of our main front door. it has the cutest little steps leading up to it, so I flanked the stairs with mums and pumpkins, and alternated them for a staggered look. I attached cornstalks to either side of the top posts and attached them with twine. Then I cut and wrapped ribbon and just ribbon around the stalks and finished them off with a sweet jute flower using a clip.

Here is a close-up of the jute flowers and ribbons: jute flower

 

I also flanked the front door with hay on wither side, draped jute over them to soften the look and layered the hay with pumpkins of different heights, as well as a mum on one, and a floral arrangement I made by hand on the other. My mom taught me a design rule: things look best in groups of 3 and you know what? She was right. She IS right. Isn’t she always?
Front door

We also have these white spray-painted chairs form IKEA that we have had for yeeeeaaaarrrrssss and have been using them on our porch. They looked lonely, so I draped some more jute over them, popped a mum on top of each and BAM! Romantic, aren’t they? And cheap! Around $7 for each chair.

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Here is the floral arrangement I whipped up. I saw a birds nest and birds… not my style generally speaking but OH SO CUTE! And I thought having it nestled in between the leaves and flowers would look darling. Or creepy. You decide.

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And last, but not least, I decided that the opposite side of the porch needed some loving, too, so I flanked the stairs with cornstalks, and placed a few pumpkins on the stairs. Seeing as we already have the rounded boxwoods (FAKE!) there, I didn’t want to make that area unnecessarily busy.

white door

 

So there you have it. Fall, I hope you like it. And thanks for giving me AMAZING¬†weather to decorate in. Not to rub it in, summer. We’ll be seeing you.

L

Welcome Home

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The Graceful Abode – Welcome Home

It has been a while since we posted, but we have just completed what we hope to be the last move we embark on for a very long time. Having said that, adventure always beckons and you just never know what might happen. But for the time being, and for the sake of our children, we are staying put.

Moving with children and your own business can prove to be difficult at times; there is a lot of upheaval, stress and change for everyone involved. For the kids, it means having their rooms more or less ready to go once you have moved in, and making them feel settled.

For the business, it means putting things on hold, unfortunately, and dealing with the aftermath when appropriate.

It’s funny what becomes imperatively important – the caring of your children vs. making a buck. When you inherently must acquire some sort of income so that you can feed an clothe them. We can vouch – lots of eating out was had. Not that we are complaining.

So now it is finally back to the drawing board – the office is ready to go and so are a multitude of renovations. Those, too will take time, but oh how we LONG for them. This eating in the dark scary corner of the kitchen is literally eating away at us.

In the meantime, thanks for sticking around!

- The Graceful Abode

Father’s Day – 4 Great Gift Ideas

It’s almost time for Father’s Day, so we rounded up a few of our top favourite gift ideas to take the hassle out of what to get the man who has everything.

We are not sponsored or being paid for showcasing any of these products – we just happen to love them and think you and Dad will, too! They come in all varying price points, too, so you’ll be sure to find something that tickles your fancy!

1. Bespoke Post www.bespokepost.com

This is a fabulous company who tailors to the man who¬†wants to be ¬†surprised¬†and yet pick out something he really, really wants.¬†We actually used this as a gift for Valentine’s Day, and it really is the gift that keeps on giving.¬†

The Low-Down: they have boxes of the month. You choose how many boxes you want to purchase for your dad. Dad gets to pick the boxes he wants. He can skip a month and wait to see what the next box has. Boxes contain everything from bow-ties, cuff-links, to bbq smokers, whiskey glasses and stones, to gym bags – you name it. It is SUCH a great gift because it takes the guess work out for you!!! And you can always purchase more boxes down the road.

A single box costs $55 and 12 boxes cost $540. Again, you can pick how ever many you want. Check it out. He’s going to LOVE it!

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Image from Bespoke Post

 

2. Nest Thermostats www.nest.com

Nest Thermostats are cool: they’re sleek, modern and easy to use. You can install it in about 3 minutes or less and you can set your temperature wherever you may be. Even if you’re at the beach. That’s right – there’s an app for that. How awesome to know you can adjust the temperature of your home and you don’t even need to be there! Talk about genius. And a great money saver, too. We all know Dad wants to save money – so what are you waiting for?

$249.00

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Image from Nest

 

3. A Robotic Lawnmower. Oh Yes: The LawnBott Spyder. www.lawnbotts.com

The name says it all. Spyder. Robot. Lawnmower. Enough said. Now open a beer and watch this thing get to work.

 

$1199.00lb1200-spyder

Image from LawnBotts

 

4. A Homemade Card from the Kids 

Nothing says I love you more than something made from the heart. A card made by a loved one envelops more than just words, it has heart and soul poured onto it, in a rainbow of colours and love.

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This one is actually priceless.

The Guitar Urinal. That’s Right. You Heard Me.

guitar pee graceful abode

If you don’t follow mashable.com, you should. Alongside some interesting articles on technology and other neat stuff the world has to offer, they collect some funny stuff. Stuff we need to share. Right now. Like this urinal.

We don’t know about you, but we are pretty convinced that every household needs one of these masterpieces. Not only do you get to pee on it, it makes music. Which you can download. On an app. And share with friends. Guys. Seriously.

As long as it also cleans itself, we are game!

Image via mashable.com